Multi-Step Word Problem in the Real World

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Students will be able to solve multi-step word problems and practice using math practice standard 3.

Big Idea

Students work on a multi-step word problem and strengthen their perseverance.

Warm Up

7 minutes

Students have math journal prompt as a warm up today.  I chose an open ended rounding prompt for several reasons. First, since our assessment is tomorrow, I wanted to do a quick short review for students. Second, I wanted to students to have an opportunity to show with words and a model how to round.  When I corrected the last three journal prompts, many students are forgetting to include a model.  For this journal prompt they could choose two numbers to model.

Journal Prompt:

Think of two numbers that when rounded to the nearest hundred, their sum is 500. Write five different pairs of numbers.

Concept development

50 minutes

Today's lesson incorporates a video of my school secretary. Through video she tells this story;

Hello fourth graders! I need your help. I am creating a projected budget for next school year for Mrs. Thompson.  I know that last year, in one school year, Four Georgians teachers used 568,634 pieces of paper, 441,897 fewer envelopes than pieces of paper, and 98,639 fewer markers than envelopes.  How many total supply items did the Four Georgians teachers use?  Remember to use words, pictures, and numbers to help solve this problem!

I video-ed her reading and acting out this problem after I scripted a problem that I thought would be realistic and accomplish the goal of solving multi-step word problems. While the numbers in this word problem are a bit higher than the actual amounts, they are not unrealistic. My secretary does say "five hundred sixty eight six hundred thirty four (568,634) instead of five hundred sixty-eight THOUSAND, six hundred thirty four, but I didn't mind a bit.  I told my students to also watch for a number error as she reads the numbers in the video. My students did catch the error right away and assumed she did it on purpose to help them learn.

The student assignment was to solve the problem and then create a poster, 8 x 10 size, for the secretary showing their answer and how they reached this answer.  The posters could be colorful and creative and I provided crayons for them.

Before students started the poster and calculations, we discussed what kinds of pictures or models they could draw. Students listed vertical number lines and rounding to check their work (made my heart happy) and tape diagrams. (again, heart was happily beating that they connected the tape diagram and the rounding as tools they could use for this problem)

After watching the video three times, students got right to work with their learning partner. They needed to watch it three times in order to copy down the numbers and check to make sure they got the numbers correct.  When they are satisfied they have answered it for the secretary, they create their poster showing the answer and how they solved this problem using words, numbers, and pictures

Standard 4.OA.A3 is addressed in this lesson as students use subtraction and addition to solve the multi-step problem.  As you can see in this video, students were busy and on task.   They loved  this problem! I personalize word problems by using their names and people they know.  I do this because personalizing the text of word problems is an effective way to tap into students’ background knowledge. By including people known to students and using a context for the story that involves the students’ background experience, I can help bridge the gap between existing and new knowledge. Personalizing word problems helps motivate students to choose the correct mathematical process needed to solve a problem, even when they may not have the ability to apply the process correctly. Just as I personalize for text problems, I created this personal video problem for the same reasons.

Engagement was definitely abundant in the classroom today.  Students exhibited MP.1 with gusto as they erased, worked, checked their work, erased, and didn't give up! This lesson allowed me to feel like a facilitator of learning. Students were in charge of their learning and I was there to guide them through the process.  The level of engagement was high and their drive to persevere was high.  Some partners ran out of time for their posters and they were extremely disappointed.  I have built in time tomorrow, after our unit test, for students to complete their posters. 



Student debrief - Wrap up

3 minutes

Students worked mostly to the end of class. After all supplies were put away, I asked them two questions:

What math practice did you use today?

Are you excited to tell Mrs. Sandvig (our secretary) your findings?


Students overwhelmingly responded that they used perseverance.  It made me realize I am using the word a lot and that students are connecting with it and realizing when they show it. Students cheered and clapped when I asked them if they were excited to talk to the secretary.